Raindrop-impact-induced erosion starts when detachment of soil particles from the surface results from an expenditure of raindrop energy. Hence, rain kinetic energy is a widely used indicator of the potential ability of rain to detach soil. Although it is widely recognized that knowledge of rain kinetic energy plays a fundamental role in soil erosion studies, its direct evaluation is not straightforward. Commonly, this issue is overcome through indirect estimation using another widely measured hydrological variable, namely, rainfall intensity. However, it has been challenging to establish the best expression to relate kinetic energy to rainfall intensity. In this study, first, kinetic energy values were determined from measurements of an optical disdrometer. Measured kinetic energy values were then used to assess the applicability of the rainfall intensity relationship proposed for central Italy and those used in the major equations employed to estimate the mean annual soil loss, that is, the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) and its two revised versions (RUSLE and RUSLE2). Then, a new theoretical relationship was developed and its performance was compared with equations found in the literature.
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